I told Janine I wasn’t going to cook anything complicated this weekend. Maybe just something quick and easy or maybe we would go out for dinner. Either way, I figured we would just take it easy.
It was one of those cold and wet February days where all you want to do is hibernate. After a leisurely breakfast, Janine settled on the couch to work on her knitting project. I went down into the basement to organize my fishing tackle. The gear needed to be wiped down and oiled before the upcoming season. I began to search for a lint-free cloth but then remembered using the last one a couple of weeks ago to clean a spill in the garage. I told Janine I was heading to the supermarket to pick some up and asked if she needed anything.
The cleaning supplies were located on a peg board between the meat and dairy cases. At the end of the aisle, I noticed the store had whole roaster chickens on sale. “Maybe I should buy one and make soup?” I thought to myself. “It will be simple. Just place the chicken in a pot of water with some vegetables and bring it to a simmer…” I picked out a plump one and headed to the cashier.
Upon returning home, I removed the chicken from its package and began to rinse it off. The meaty thighs and drumsticks made me think about moist baked chicken with crispy golden skin. “Baked chicken wasn’t that complicated…” I concluded. “I’ll just cut it up, place it on a pan and bake it in the oven.” I reached for my boning knife to get started.
The knife blade was a bit dull so I ran it through a sharpener. Then a few strokes across a honing steel created a razor-sharp edge. “Boy, this baby could completely bone that bird in no time flat…” I mused. “Maybe that was the way to go. I’d bone out the bird, and then simply broil it. Nothing complicated at all…”
After removing the bones and laying the bird flat, I envisioned it coming out from under the broiler all golden and sizzling. The thought of slathering barbecue sauce all over it popped in my head. Back to the store I went.
There is a little Italian Specialty food shop next to our local supermarket. Janine and I are friendly with the owners so I thought I would stop in and say hello. They had just brought out a tray of freshly made Italian sausages. The neatly arranged row of links immediately caught my attention. Boneless stuffed chicken crossed my mind before ordering a couple of sweet links and a small loaf of bread. The rest of the ingredients could be bought next door.
It was well past noon by the time I returned home. Janine was wondering where I had been. I told her what was on the menu. “What time do you think we will eat?” was her reply. “Not that late” I assured her. “It’s really not that complicated…” She went back to her knitting and I got to work in the kitchen.
First I made the stuffing and let it cool. Then I loosely added it to the bird as I stitched its cavity back up. Trussing its legs and wings with butcher’s twine made it resembled a plump chicken once again. After browning its skin in a hot frying pan, I transferred the chicken to roasting pan and added a mire poix of vegetables and the cut-up chicken bones I removed earlier. The chicken was done after roasting for an hour and a half in a hot oven. I made pan gravy from the drippings and a couple of vegetable side dishes while the chicken rested.
It was about 7:30 PM before we finally sat down to eat. Whew! It’s a good thing I didn’t cook anything complicated.
Boneless Stuffed Chicken with Sausage Pecan Stuffing –
- 1, 4-5lb chicken de-boned for stuffing (See “How-To” section for detailed instructions or ask your butcher to do it for you)
- 4 cups toasted white bread croutons (about ¾” to 1” square)
- 1/3 cup toasted pecan pieces
- 1 Sweet Italian sausage link
- 1 small onion, cut into small dice (about a 1 cup)
- 1 celery stalk, cut into small dice (about a ¼ cup)
- 1 teaspoon of sage, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon of thyme
- ½ teaspoon of rosemary, finely chopped
- ½ cup parsley, coarsely chopped and loosely packed
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- Kosher Salt and pepper
Prepare the Stuffing:
Place chicken stock, butter, and half the sage, thyme and rosemary in small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Stir to combine ingredients.
Into a large bowl, add the croutons, pecans, remaining sage, thyme and rosemary.
Remove the casing from sausage and sauté in a medium frying pan. Break sausage into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Sauté the sausage until it is lightly browned on the outside and fully cooked on the inside. Remove the sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon and add it to the bowl with the croutons and herbs.
Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add the celery and continue to sauté the vegetables are tender. Transfer the contents of the frying pan to the bowl containing the other ingredients.
Using a ladle, add a small portion of chicken stock at a time to the croutons. Stir after each ladle-full is added to ensure the croutons absorb the liquid evenly.
Note: The intention is to just moisten the croutons, not drench them. Add only enough chicken stock to barely moisten them. The stuffing will absorb additional moisture as it cooks in the chicken.
Add the parsley to the bowl of stuffing. Stir to distribute evenly. Cool the mixture completely.
Fold in the eggs right before you begin to stuff the chicken. Place any extra stuffing in a buttered baking dish and bake in oven along with chicken.
Prepare the chicken:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Lay the boned chicken on a flat work surface. The cavity side should be facing up. Season it with a big pinch of salt and a few grids of pepper.
Using a trussing needle and butcher’s twine or several toothpicks, begin to close up the chicken cavity from the tail side working toward the neck. This will create a little pocket.
Add stuffing loosely into the pocket as you go. Make sure to press a little stuffing into the thigh cavities while you can still access them. Continue closing up the chicken and adding stuffing until the entire bird is filled and closed up. Do not over stuff the chicken. When finished, the bird should be plump but not packed solid.
Truss the bird with butcher’s twine to ensure it holds it shape while cooking.
In a large frying pan, heat the oil until it begins to shimmer. Sear chicken on all sides until it is golden brown.
Transfer chicken to a roasting pan and place in oven. Roast the bird until a meat thermometer inserted into the base of the thigh read 175 degrees and the breast reads 160 degrees. Remove chicken from oven and allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.